Three peanut firm officials guilty in deadly salmonella outbreak

Atlanta | Reuters — Three former U.S. peanut company officials were found guilty on Friday in connection with a 2009 salmonella outbreak that killed nine people and sickened hundreds, federal prosecutors said.

The contamination at the Peanut Corporation of America plant in Blakely, Georgia, led to one of the largest food recalls in U.S. history and forced the company into liquidation.

Former company owner Stewart Parnell and his brother, Michael Parnell, a food broker who worked on behalf of the company, were found guilty of conspiracy, while Stewart Parnell and the plant’s quality control manager, Mary Wilkerson, were found guilty of obstruction.

Federal prosecutors have alleged the Parnell brothers covered up the presence of salmonella in the company’s peanut products for years, going so far as to create fake certificates showing the products were uncontaminated even when laboratory results showed otherwise.

The Parnells were also both convicted of several counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and introducing misbranded food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead.

The defendants will be sentenced at a later date.

Defense attorneys did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

— Reporting for Reuters by David Beasley and Jonathan Kaminsky.

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